The Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) recently conducted a survey focusing on Anne Arundel County residents’ views highlighting the following issues.

  • Perceptions of substance abuse and support for various measures meant to combat it
  • Right/wrong direction of the county, state and nation
  • Perceptions of the county, state and national economies
  • Consumer confidence
  • Applicability of various economic conditions to individual households
  • Support for public policy stances dealing with the availability of medical marijuana in Anne Arundel County, salary increases for county teachers, restrictions on the placement of group homes, the ideal number of students at county high schools, caps on carbon emissions and whether Annapolis is doing enough to prevent flooding.
  • How the county has done during the last year facing various challenges such as crime, the economy, planning growth and development and reducing poverty
  • Job approval for the county executive, governor and president
  • Trust in political parties
  • Presidential candidate choices

The CSLI at AACC conducts surveys of Anne Arundel County residents each March and October, offering students a valuable learning experience while providing the county with public opinion findings. A summary is provided below; CSLI surveys since 1995 can be found at www2.aacc.edu/csli.

Most important problem facing county residents: Crime (15% citing) was virtually tied with taxes (14%) as the most important problem, while 12% noted the economy.

Right direction/wrong direction: The percentage of those saying that the county was moving in the right direction was 51%. Following a dramatic increase in the percentage of those saying that the state was going in the right direction last spring — 47% and up 20 points from fall 2014 — a small further increase pushed the figure to 51%. The percentage applicable to the country was down 6 points, to 21%.

Perceptions of the economy: The survey found that 64% viewed the county’s economy as excellent or good — up somewhat from last spring when it was 57%; 45% said the same for Maryland’s economy (an increase of 4 points) and 21% favorably rated the national economy, down 6 points.

Economic conditions experienced by individuals: Starting in March 2008, a variety of items were added to the semi-annual survey to evaluate respondents’ economic experiences and perceptions. The fall 2015 survey found that most economic indicators improved since the March 2015 survey: a 4 percentage point decrease in concern about taxes; a 3 point decrease in the percentage saying that wages or salaries were not rising as fast as the cost of living; the percentage saying that they were “facing the possibility of unemployment” stayed the same (12%).

There was a 5 point decrease in those saying that “Health care insurance is unavailable, too expensive or inadequate.” The survey also asked those who said “applies” to the health insurance question about elements that were relevant: high premiums were cited by many (88%) along with high deductibles (65%), other out-of-pocket expenses (47%) and inadequate coverage (39%).

Consumer confidence: There was some retreat in consumer confidence measures this fall, with lower percentages expressing optimism towards growth, unemployment, inflation and personal finances.

Major public policy issues: The survey found that 69% of the respondents favored allowing the planting, processing and sale of medical marijuana in the county. A similar percentage (70%) agreed with efforts by Annapolis and Anne Arundel County to review ways to combine government services. Bare majorities (51%) favored awarding salary increases to teachers or agreed with a proposal to establish caps on carbon emissions, auctioning carbon permits and rebating the revenue to taxpayers. A plurality (45%) Agreed with placing some restrictions on the placement of group homes. A minority of respondents agreed that Annapolis was doing enough to deal with flooding (29%) or with the study commissioned by the board of education that recommended a higher student target for high schools than the figure advocated by County Executive Steve Schuh.

How well has the county dealt with challenges: Asked to say whether the county has made certain challenges better, worse or left them about the same over the last year, the largest group tended to say “the same.” Problems highlighted were planning growth and development, reducing the backlog in school maintenance and repair, keeping taxes low, controlling crime and reducing poverty and homelessness. More respondents said “better” than “worse” with regards to improving the local economy or improving the quality of life in the county.

Officeholders’ job approval: Job approval for Gov. Larry Hogan rose from 56% approve to 71%. President Obama saw his job approval percentages move up a single point, to 38%. Schuh slipped a bit from 45% to 43%, but this partly reflected a very large “no answer” percentage (35%).

Which party do you trust? The percentage favoring Democrats rose slightly from 32% to 33% since last spring. The Republican percentage dropped from 36 %to 33%, continuing a decline that began in fall 2014 when its percentage was 39%, with the percentage saying “neither” rising from 23% to 26%.

Presidential Candidate Preferences: The survey asked respondents to indicate their choice for president. The four leaders were Hillary Clinton (18% of all respondents who were registered voters, 34% of all Democrats) Bernie Sanders (17% and 27%) on the Democratic side; and Ben Carson (18% and 32% of Republicans) and Donald Trump (15% and 21%) on the Republican side.

Methodology: The survey polled a random sample of 589 county residents who were at least 18 years old, primarily using a database of listed and unlisted landline numbers along with cell phone numbers. Telephone interviewing was conducted Oct.12–15 during evening hours. In addition, members of a CSLI web panel were also asked to participate in an online version of the survey. There was about a 4% statistical margin of error for the combined sample; the error rate was higher for subgroups such as “Democrats” or “men.” The dataset was weighted by gender, political party and education to better represent the general population.

Contact Dan Nataf, center director, for additional comments or questions at 410-777-2733 and ddnataf@aacc.edu. Check the CSLI web site for results at www2.aacc.edu/csli.